The South Platte a bust at 35 fish, and a fisherman ponders the bigger picture

Yes, that’s out of hand…bordering on arrogance. So be it.

A buddy and I hit a small section of the South Platte this last Saturday. It was a bust – we only caught 35 fish between us, and none bigger that 12 inches.

I know that sounds terrible, but it’s the sad truth. After consistently breaking the 50 barrier, with half the catch ranging between 14 and 22 inches and a number of the bigger fish being caught on the leisurely stroll back to the car, we were left in sheer and utter dismay. All was not lost, however, as we made some fascinating discoveries during the outing…

1) The number of fish your fellow fishermen/women (meaning the competition) catch seems inversely proportional to the amount of gear they are wearing/carrying. For example, we saw one person donning waders, a vest, a chestpack, a small backpack, AND a lanyard. From a non-obvious peek (so to neither insult or feign being impressed) they were casting a Sage TCR with an Abel reel (a nice rig in the right hands, if I do say so myself). But, a short conversation produced their happy exclamation that they’d caught a whopping three fish for the day. Me thinks they figured that two guys wet wading with ratty fanny packs (and armed with lowly Scott and G-Loomis customs, with Lamson and Ross reels) couldn’t have done any better. About that time we both hooked up, and an announcement came across the loudspeaker…”The Chitty Chat Is Now Over.” We’ll soon be issuing MGA trophies on all waters we frequent. MGA stands for “Most Gear Award.”

2) RS-2s, particular grey RS-2s with clear beadheads and white wings, are a very versatile fly. They are especially good for…catching vegetation! I promised myself that on this outing I was going to refrain from fishing three fly rigs. I said I’d fish two and be more patient about the lines I cast into. I said I’d switch flies until I got it right, in each and every hole I approached. Unfortunately, grey midge larvae reigned supreme most of the day. Every rock and stick was covered in the trouts’ all-day snacks. So I applied the usually attractor (a standard or psycho Prince) up top, following up with midge patterns. It worked, but I was strangely fixated on my college day’s elementary statistics class and quickly tripled up. I caught more fish, but the river seemed to shrink in width by five feet immediately thereafter and all of the branches seemed to be simultaneously growing on the edges and blanketing the entire river bottom. Once I added the RS-2 as a third, it snagged every single one of them.

3) Fishing a previously unexplored section of a waterway on a crowded day while expecting to linger near the y-axis of the not-so-fat tail called fly fishing success is…well…setting your expectations just a wee bit too high. Personally, I like fishing water for the first time. But if I don’t land at least ten trout over 20 inches, chances are good I might break a $750 rod over my knee. Fishing and not catching is like golfing – a good walk turned bad. If I fish that stretch again and don’t have a pic of a state record in my hands to show for it, I’m going to petition the wildlife board to drain that river and have a community fish fry. Even if you don’t hook a trophy head shaker, the walk alone makes it all worthwhile. You have a chance to reflect on the previous week, breath some fresh air, and generally embrace the outdoors.


It’s supposed to be a peaceful world we are trying to create around here. Peace means cooperation, and how the heck is a 25 inch wild brown supposed to assimilate itself into the universal harmony if it doesn’t cooperate? Being a productive member of society doesn’t mean hiding beneath an undercut bank all day, munching on passing midge larvae and the occasional stonefly nymph, waiting for two-legged, air-breathing, shadow-casting creatures to leave.

It means biting artificial flies with reckless abandon, concluding you’ve been hooked, and after thrashing around swimming into a net with the expectation of getting your photo on the front page of this blog, and then returning to your peaceful existence. It seems big trout need a few lessons on this.

Unfortunately, the only one who got schooled this last Saturday were the humans.

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